Regret. Remorse. The words sound alike. They even begin alike. But they’re so different. And they offer a valuable lesson in learning how to FEEL your feelings, rather than telling yourself a story about them.
So what about regret?
It’s common for people to say they have no regrets in life.
Oh, how I used to envy those people!
Cause I lived with a TON of regrets. My life was one big regret. About what a failure I was, about how I wasted my life being an underachiever, about how I was too scared to even interact with people, about how pathetic I was, about how… and I could go on and on and on. And on.
I didn’t understand. First of all, I didn’t understand how much pain was hidden behind the words of saying “I have no regrets in life.” How much denial.
I didn’t understand regret was often present in other people, but it usually stayed unrecognized and unacknowledged.
Just say you have no regrets in life as a way to not feel the pain. Then you don’t have to think about the unresolved past. Just shut it off instead. Shut it down. Don’t think about it. Don’t feel it. Deny any sense of regret.
Which wouldn’t be a bad idea if it worked. Here’s why it doesn’t:
You have a shadow self.
A part of you exists (a part of your soul, really) that could best be described as ‘your shadow’.
Your shadow picks up and holds all the thoughts and feelings you deny. It saves these energies until you’re ready to deal with them. It saves all the goodness, truth and beauty you deny. It holds so much of your beauty. It also holds all the love and joy and happiness you refuse to feel. And it holds so much of your power.
Conversely, it also holds the ugly qualities we deny in ourselves. It holds shame. It holds pain. It holds fear. It holds many other unresolved energies from the past.
“Well great! Now I don’t have to deal with it!”
Yeah, I’m getting to that…
See, when we have regrets, and don’t feel them, those regrets come at us as ‘the way of the world’. Whatever we deny and shove down into our shadow comes back at us. It gets thrust in our faces. So we can’t deny them. And if we do deny it, then they get shoved in our faces again. And again. And again. Until we take responsibility for them.
How much regret have you stuffed down in those dark dank catacombs that so few have the courage to explore?
By the way, you can retrieve your lost courage from your shadow. You can substantially reduce your fears and anxieties. And you can also help yourself in ANY area of your life by going to your shadow.
Just yesterday morning, in fact, my shadow filled me with a beautiful delicate white snow – which represented the energy of renewal and regeneration. It felt delicious. I still taste it today.
Your shadow can blow your mind in so many wonderful ways as it heals whatever needs to be healed inside you.
When you’re ready, go to -
Getting back to regret… (boy, do I love talking about the shadow!)
I didn’t understand the damage I was doing to myself by living a life of regret.
For one thing, I was always looking in the rear view mirror, instead of keeping my eyes on the road in front of me.
I was living in the past. Regret does that to a person.
It’s kind of like throwing your money out the window as you travel through life. I was giving what little power I had to a past that didn’t even exist. I was already weak. Regret made me weaker.
Plus, regret opens the door to pity and blame and judgments and all those other energies that separate me from myself, and separate me from my spirituality, and separate me from my SOURCE OF POWER – my emotions.
If that’s not enough, regret also locks in a lack of forgiveness. Regret keeps me from gathering the ‘substance’ of what needs to be forgiven.
And I NEED forgiveness! I need to feel that raw, powerful energy – that ineffable energy – if I want to change myself. If I truly want to grow and heal and change my life – if I want to end the pain, if I want to stop obsessing, if I want to get over the past, if I want to stop REPEATING the past, then I need to tap into the magic of forgiveness.
Learn how to forgive yourself by going to -
I need to re-connect with the gentle healing waters of forgiveness.
Regret can block me from going there.
So what is regret, exactly?
It’s a story about the past that may or not be true, but always shames myself in some way. Or it shames another. It’s a way to keep me from feeling my true feelings. It’s a way to block me from making changes. But mainly….
Regret distracts me from what’s real.
Now, most regrets are small, and thus create just a little shame. Other regrets are quite huge. And can even change the direction of your life. (Not in a good way!)
Small regrets can be turned into remorse and released.
I can start by looking at my regret, perhaps even writing it out. (Always a good idea.) In as much detail as I can muster. Then, I can simply feel the energy behind the story… which would go something like this:
“No matter what I do, I can’t change what happened. And I am deeply sorry it happened.”
Not so much to TELL yourself those two statements, but to FEEL those two statements. That’s remorse, in a nutshell. The feeling of those statements. (Or something similar – it doesn’t have to be those exact words.)
The key is to FEEL rather than to EXPLAIN or RATIONALIZE or JUSTIFY or EXCUSE.
The feeling is remorse.
The explaining, rationalizing, justifying, excusing; that’s regret.
This illustrates the classic example I’m fond of giving – on the difference between feeling your feelings, versus telling yourself stories about your feelings.
Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with feeling regret. In fact, that’s often where it starts:
“If only I’d seen what was coming. If only I hadn’t been so stupid. If only I’d kept my eyes open. If only I hadn’t believed what so-and-so said.. If only….”
That’s where it starts. The big question is:
Do I stay stuck here, stuck in the past, stuck thinking the same old thoughts over and over? For DECADES???
Or do I simply FEEL the energy behind those thoughts? Be done with it, and move on to bigger and better things.
Tough choice, huh?
You’d think so, just by looking at and listening to others.
We love stories. Especially when they’re about us. And ESPECIALLY when they abdicate responsibility.
“Hey if there’s some way – any way – where I don’t have to be responsible for my own thoughts and feelings – I’m all over it. Like white on rice.”
But that’s only because we tell ourselves stories about responsibility! We believe in the false version of it, rather than experiencing the true life-changing wonder of REAL responsibility.
To end the false responsibility, and start living the wonder, go to -
Anyway, if you’re ready to end the stories about some particular regret, it’s fairly straightforward. Just feel the energy behind the stories. Feel and release them.
(To leave room for the next batch of stories around the next regret that comes up…!)
Speaking of which, regret can become a rather ingrained habit. Just like blame and pity and so many other bad habits. By taking the time to write out your regrets, and turning them into remorse, you can work on breaking that habit.
So what about the great big regrets? The huge, obsessive regrets that suck all our power and energy? What about those?
They may have to be unraveled, one piece at a time. If you have one great big regret that dominates your life, then you may have to break it apart into many small regrets.
“I hate the way my life has turned out.”
Well, let’s take a closer look. What do you hate?
Okay, let’s start by looking at one thing. What jumps out first?
“I can’t get a loving relationship!”
Why do you suppose you can’t get a loving relationship?
“I don’t know!”
What’s your best guess?
“Because of what my parents did to me – I can never let someone get close to me!”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
And of course, in the above example, you could still break it down some more.
See how it goes?
If you have one BIG regret – you need to break it down. Find the first layer, and work with that. Then systematically work through each layer. That’s how you deal with an overwhelming regret – break it down.
And I realize it’s easy for me to just sit here and say these words!
It’s easier said than done. But you get the idea:
Chip away at the regrets, piece by piece.
Which really amount to little slivers of shame; shaming yourself.
We’ll be talking a lot more about technique in the upcoming chapters.all the best,
Mark Ivar Myhre
The Emotional Healing Coach
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